It all started in the year when India’s spin quadrate was turning old; Copyright act was getting ready to blind pirates in US, Pakistan was being ruled by a man jise aam se pyar aur bhutton se nafrat thi (who loved mangoes and hated corns) and India’s most powerful lady was resuming her last term which turned out to be a death sentence few years later. It was the year of my birth when my name was to be decided. Being the first child in the family, everyone one from everywhere chipped in with his/her suggestions for my name.
Finally, I was named Anupam. My nana (maternal grandfather) had given me this name.
There are few relationships in this world which just cannot get along well and keep on fighting with each other over a bone of contention. India-Pakistan is one such example.
There are a few relationships in this world where two people may not spit on each other in public, but they will go miles to prove their superiority over each other. Like the two brothers, the famous ones. Even father-in-law and son-in-law often share such relationship. Hence, my father refused to accept my name as Anupam. If he had accepted it, he must have thought, he would have lost the battle of supremacy then and there.
The hunt for my name started again. It had to start with the letter V and a word had to be inserted between my first name and sir name - Prakash. Reason was very simple. For four generations, everyone in my family was being named as VP Awasthi. It all started with my great grandfather who was named Vishambhar Prasad Awasthi. He named his son, my grandfather, as Vaidyanath Prasad Aawasthi. He, being rebel, changed the trend in the family by naming his three sons as Vimal Prakash Aawasthi (my father), Vipin Prakash Awasthi (my elder uncle) and Vineet Prakash Awasthi (my younger uncle). Please take a note - Prasad had been changed to Prakash. So I had to be named as V Prakash Awasthi. With so much of Prakash in the family, I wonder we were not named KESA – Kanpur Electricity Supply Authority.
My name was imported from Sihora, a small town in MP. My father’s aunt had suggested this name or this is what I know. I was named Vibhash Prakash Awasthi and my life was complicated for ever.
Vibhash is not such a common name and biggest problem with such names is that people are not used to listening them. So they hear what they are used to hearing. For example – in my hometown Kanpur, where people are famous for being sarcastically witty, whenever someone asked my name and I responded accordingly; I got such responses
“Kaun si Ghaas?” (Which grass)
During one of my previous jobs, I had to fix the meeting room for weekly status meeting by calling up the receptionist. There also I got similar responses –
“Sir, what is your name?”
“Subhash?” “Vinash”? “Haridas”
Hence I decided that whenever I would tell my name to anyone for the first time, I would tell him/her the spelling of my name first. Name can be pronounced later.
I like the fact that my name is not so common. But problem attached with it are a plenty. To top it all, the people I have met with the same name have never failed to scare me. One of the Vibhash I met in 1996 was in 6th year of his 4 year B-Tech course in IIT Kanpur. Other Vibhash was a cabbie in Kolkata who had spent his last night in a lockup because a female had filed a complained of harassment against him. When I asked him if was he framed by her, he smiled and replied – “No, I was just taking my chances”.
If first name wasn’t enough, middle name has also made me realize that it exists. If someone is filling a form on my behalf, I am never asked my father’s name, especially in Maharashtra. It is assumed that his name was Prakash till the time I explain that it was not. Then I am asked “Who is Prakash?” So I start explaining the family history and tradition.
In class X, the guy who printed my mark sheet, must have got confused and printed my name as “Vibhash Arkash Awasthi” in place of “Vibhash Prakash Awasthi” My school immediately sent it for correction. And for next three years, I paid the price of continuing the family tradition by explaining to everyone, whoever asked for the proof that I was not a class X dropout, that why I did not have my original mark sheet. I got my original mark sheet during first year of my engineering. Only if there was no Prakash in my name, I would have got it immediately.
But even my son is feeling the heat. Most of my friends get confused by thinking that his full name is Divyansh Prakash Awasthi and I have to explain to them – “He is just Divyansh Awasthi and there is no Prakash in his name. Like the last samurai, I will be the last Prakash in my family tree”. After all, even KESA has died in kanpur.